Fisher-Price Record Player plays Stairway to Heaven

[Fred Murphy] has an old Fisher-Price music box/record player that has lost many of its disks over the last 40 years. It’s a very simple device – concentric grooves in a plastic disk have plastic bumps that are picked up by the tines of the record player ‘cartridge.’ Seeing as how this toy is basically a music box, [Fred] figured making his own records would be well within his grasp; he did the reasonable thing and made a Stairway to Heaven disk for a toy music box.

To figure out where to place the ‘bumps’ for the musical tines, [Fred] built a small tool in Visual C# 2010 that allowed him to place notes on a scale and generate the requisite GCode for the disk. After sending this file to his CNC mill, [Fred] had an acrylic disk that played Led Zeppelin on a child’s music box.

Of course, this Instructable wouldn’t be complete without a video demo of Stairway blasting out of this record player. You can check that out after the break.

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Cardboard Kinetic Creatures

Browsing around today, I saw this little kit on kickstarter called Kinetic Creatures.  These flat packed models are made from cardboard and can be assembled without tools. Their mechanical legs are operated either by a simple cam that you turn by hand or by a motorized attachment. I love the basic idea here. This is the kind of thing that my 6 year old would really enjoy doing that also serves to get him into making things (he’d probably insist on motorizing it with scraps, he collects dc motors and has quite a collection).

I did notice that they mentioned using it as a robotic platform, adding custom electronics to the empty space allowed in the body of the animal. This initially got me quite excited, thinking that I could, for $30 have a 1 foot tall quadruped platform that looked awesome, then I realized it can’t turn. I guess I’ll have to hack it a little bit to put separate drives in for each side. That would be a cool upgrade they could offer.

Have any of you tried to do turning with a set of only 4 [jansen] legs before?

Pep up your house cat’s boring wintertime life

With winter upon us, and all the windows shut, [Garfield] and [Socks] can get a little restless. But [Dino] is determined to keep his furry friends entertained through the cold dark months. He hit the junk box, and used some interesting fabrication techniques to build the Chase-a-Mouse motorized cat toy.

The toy is popular with the cats because it incorporates two traditionally satisfying features; something to chase, and an obstacle to chase it around. The base of the unit is a long plank which is held up from the floor by a couple of inches. The loop of rope which spans the board’s length has a mouse attached to it with about six inches of string. When the motor is flipped on it bounces and jerks its way around the circuit, darting in and out of the space below the base.

As you can see in the video after the break the motor is a bit loud. [Dino] used the sweeper motor from a Roomba for this. It might freak the kitties out at first, but curiosity will get the better of them eventually. It’s a quick build, and we love the drill-turned-lathe that is used make the wooden pulley for the system.

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Rudolph toy hacked to announce incoming email

email-reading-reindeer

Tis the season for hacking, and [Nick McClanahan] at the GadgetGangster is certainly showing off his Christmas spirit with his most recent creation. He had an animatronic Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer toy sitting around and thought it would be fun to convert him into an email reading machine.

He tore open the toy, removing its innards, disconnecting the built-in speaker and servos from the original PCB. He then extended wires from those components outside of the body before reassembling the toy. The reindeer is controlled primarily using a Propeller Platform, with an E-Net module and a small audio amp taking care of network communications and audio output, respectively.

Most of the work is done by the software [Nick] is using, which allows Rudolph to periodically check his Gmail inbox for new messages. When the message count increases, the reindeer springs into action, moving and lighting up his nose before announcing the sender’s name.

He’s using a phonemic voice synthesizer for the output, which does the job, though we would go mad if we had to listen to it all day. Since the reindeer is connected to his LAN, it might be feasible to run the data through a more robust voice synth on a PC, returning a better-sounding audio clip for playback.

Check out the video below to see a short clip of Rudolph in action.

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[DJ Sures] digs up another 80s robot toy, makes it awesome

omnibot-2000

[DJ Sures] just can’t help himself from tinkering with robot toys built in the 80s. This time, he got his hands on an Omnibot-2000 (not to be confused with his other Omnibot hack), and updated it for the 21st century.

After its obligatory run through the dishwasher, the robot was fitted with two heavy duty servos in each arm – one for the shoulder and one at the elbow joint. He added another pair of servos and a head-mounted camera to the robot as well, giving it the ability to look around and navigate through his house.

While these physical modifications are nothing new to [DJ Sures], he wanted the robot’s control scheme to be different than what he has done in the past. Along with the standard autonomous/joystick/Wiimote/voice/iPhone controls that he built into his other projects, he added “visual glyph” control capabilities to the Omnibot. This means that the robot can recognize specific objects and surroundings, giving it the ability to perform context-related tasks.

He’s working on getting the robot to recognize both the refrigerator and living room, in hopes of eventually having the Omnibot to fetch him drinks from the kitchen – that’s something we can totally get behind!

Continue reading to see a pair of videos of the Omnibot-2000 in action, and be sure to visit his site if you’re interested in seeing more.

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Children’s light up toy is an easy hand-made gift

light-and-switch-toy

While this year’s Christmas lists are dominated by electronic gadgets and other mass-produced toys, it wasn’t always like that. We’re not trying to sound like the old man yelling at the neighborhood kids to get off his lawn, but many of today’s gifts lack the personal touch found in old, hand-made toys.

[henlij’s] son is a budding electronics geek who loves playing with switches and lights, so he was inspired to build him a fun toy to pass the time. He constructed a simple box full of lights and switches that his son could toggle on and off to his heart’s content.

While there’s not a ton going on inside the box, we think that the idea is fantastic. With just a few dollars worth of simple components, anyone who knows their way around a soldering station can build something that will keep a child fascinated for hours.

There’s no reason to stop at buttons and lights either. If we were to build one, we would swap the bulbs out for LEDs, then add a wide variety of switches and dials along with speakers and any other components we could get our hands on.

The options are pretty limitless, so if you happen to know a child that gets a kick out of playing with buttons and switches, why not make him or her something special this year, much like [henlij] did for his son?

Powering kids’ toys by hand

hand_cranked_toy_piano

[Dominik’s] daughter had an old toy piano that she loved, but when the batteries started to die down, it played awful tones and sounded generally out of tune. While this is likely something our circuit bending friends might be interested in, [Dominik] preferred when things sounded more cheery.

He considered simply replacing the batteries, but it seemed like a far better idea to do away with them altogether. he hunted around for a solution, and eventually found one at the local IKEA store. He grabbed a LJUSA hand-powered flashlight and disassembled it, saving the crank and circuitry.

He installed the crank on the back side of his daughter’s piano, and mounted the electronic bits inside the toy’s shell. The crank spins a brushless motor, generating an AC current which is rectified to DC before being stored in a capacitor. He says that a 30 second crank will play just a few tunes, which isn’t ideal, though it is better than frequently replacing batteries.

[Thanks, Roger]